Siren Festival, Coney Island, July 19, 2008

Siren Music Fest Coney Island, NYC, 7/19/08
Current mood: content
Category: Music

Where to begin? first, the Village Voice’s Siren fest at Coney Island has been around for 8 years, but I have never been there. It gets a bad rap for being stupid crowded, super hot, managed like Bush running a laundromat, and generally a bad time is had by all.

but . . .NOT – I went on Saturday, and from 2pm to 9pm, saw 7 great bands, many new, in a well-run showcase that went off like clockwork. Yes, it helped that I had a VIP press badge that got me in and out of the narrow crowd pens onto the boardwark quickly. Yes, it helped that my water and those damn energy drinks were free.

But LOTs of peeps had a good time,

mainly cuz the Voicers in charge made the shows run super-tight.

first up, we saw Brooklyn’s own Parts and Labor w/pal Kerry, who’s hubby’s currently playing w/the Mendoza Line. Very fine. Many pix are up on This Week in New York’s photostream on Flickr – but not here.

then Film School, Times New Viking (fave band name of 08), and the Annuals.

both Times New Viking (a rather TV on the Radio-like sound)

and the Annuals (from Raleigh, NC, sporting a somewhat generic indy south pop tone)

featured a hot chick keyboardist and sweet guitars.

But the “new” (at least to me) band standouts were Ra Ra Riot and Islands.

Ra Ra Riot of Syracuse, had a gorgeous blond singer, who looked like he should have been homecoming king but decided to be really cool instead,

and two female strings virtuosos, on electronic violin and cello,

plus bass, lead guitar, and drums. Their anthemic, strings-laced sounds were drenched in swooping pure rock joy, and roused the crowd from its late afternoon torpor to Cyclone-style heights.

The quirky Islands, from Montreal, Canada, had some serious star power, from the weirdass fascination of the lead singer, whose entrance was canned

to the hotties on violins, who looked suspiciously like brothers — one of whom sported an ultracool look worthy of a Johnny To movie villian-hero

to the surprise appearance of Despot, a rather small but fast rapper from Queens, who upheld the american way and seemed to be doing some sort of July 4 celebration about two weeks too late.

Riot and Islands built the momentum just right for the featured artist Mr. Twi-ny and I chose to see, having the choice between the excellent Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Broken Social Scene.

I urged Mr. Twi-ny to check out BSS, whom I love; he responded “Are they one of those dancey things. . .they aren’t too techno, are they?”

of course they are NOT. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, BSS is in the vein of Arcade Fire — a collective of musicians who are a band as much as a bunch of loosely associated people who play together a lot. Feist was one of them. Brendan Canning is one of their guitarists. They have horns, about 4 or 5 more guitarists, and a rotating band of female singers and one main male one.

They are SO MUCH FUN. They did a fantastic version of Ibi Dreams of Pavement, and Fucked up Kid, and Fire Eyed Boy. And their sound swoops like the Cyclone, too, and they stump for Obama, and they bring ecstasy and joy and lots of rhythm and GUITARS, horns, percussionists, random female singers in cool dresses . . .they are known for playing with the musicians who show up. And they do it right.

it was night, it was done, we went home happy. check out ra ra, islands, and bss.

See Coney Island before its gone.

I’m glad I saw it one more time,like this.


Dizzee Rascal, Highline Ballroom, New York, July 18, 2008

British hiphop, rap, grime — The future of Hip Hop — genrefy him anyway you want, but 21-y.o Dizzee Racal is something else, esp live.

Friday night in Manhattan at the small Highline Ballroom, with its impressive soundsystem and functional, comfy vibe, Dizzee arrived about 10 mins before showtime — my concertgoing companion, the lovely Leyla, spotted him entering, with a posse of two and trademark Cap Back.

Bouncing on stage, with DJ Aaron LaCrate and his backup singer, Dizzee gave props to the proper authorities in an RUN DMC black t-shirt and smoking red-and-black hightop Nikes.

He tore into the trademark high-energy highspeed lyrics of Where’s Da G’s, and the show was heavy on more material from his third album, Math + English, including Bubbles, Wanna Be, GHETTO, and a joyous Flex, which got a number of the ladies doing exactly that.

Dizz’s relation to the crowd was a lot more relaxed and playful than that at his May 08 show, just two months ago at Webster Hall.

Probably cuz the crowd at Highline was
1) a lot more knowledgeable bout his music
2) a lot more British (he shouted out to ‘the Brits’ on several occasions, to massive response from at least 1/2 the crowd)
3) a lot more mixed, in age, race, and style
4) a lot better dancers.

Dizz’s formidable intelligence (c’mon, those lyrics are INSANELY smart) is balanced by is impressive confidence and knowledge of and true respect for his forebears. Midway thru the show, a blistering rendition of his first US hit, Fix Up Look Sharp, got good response, but it was his show closer, Dance with Me, that brought down the house. (He was accompanied on stage for the last two songs by three mysterious eminence grise of rap — old guys, one with massive flash and a fine, fine, silver skull-headed cane. Wish I knew more! any IDs from the more knowledgeable are welcome.)

Was a privilege to hear what has topped the British charts for the last 5 weeks, cuz Dance with Me is Dizzee’s mega hit — it got the girls flexing, the bodies bumping, and the Brits cheering.

The crowds don’t show up in NYC for Dizzee like they should – but we’re lucky to get him in small venues. We’d never get near him in Britain!

Pearl Jam in NYC June 24, 2008 – guest review

well, I saw the Thievery Corp in Central Park, last night, on assignment for This Week in New York. A stupendous show. Review to come!

Meanwhile, Mr. Twi-ny himself saw Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden earlier in the week.
check it out!

Tuesday, June 24, and Wednesday, June 25

“Why be satisfied,” Eddie Vedder declared early on in Pearl Jam’s first appearance at Madison Square Garden since July 2003. “We’ve got all night.” Explaining that they had negotiated a deal that allowed them to play past curfew, Vedder led the band through thirty songs and more than two and a half hours of nonstop energy. On a very brief tour (twelve shows in nine cities in twenty days) organized around the group’s recent appearance at Bonaroo, PJ is not out promoting an album, or even a specific political candidate. Instead, they are having a blast, mixing up setlists with songs from throughout their nearly twenty-year career.

Vedder seemed particularly pumped to be back in New York City, waxing poetic about its record stores — after playing “Spin the Black Circle” — and sharing memories of past gigs here. For the uninitiated, Pearl Jam shows have taken on the aura and epic proportions of Springsteen concerts, as fans know just what words to shout at and when to pump their fists in unison; the band mixes up the setlist every night, with songs about the working man and war; they make cover songs their own. On Tuesday night, they included the Who’s “Love Reign o’er Me,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” and the Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles,” with special guest CJ Ramone. Most of the band has been together from the beginning, and chants of “Boooooooooooom!” ring out whenever keyboardist extraordinaire Boom Gaspard joins Pearl Jam onstage.

With Jeff Ament on bass, Stone Gossard on rhythm guitar, Mike McCready on lead guitar, and Matt Cameron on drums, Vedder led the ferocious crowd through such songs as “Corduroy,” “Faithfull,” “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” and “Even Flow,” with McCready striking all the requisite guitar god poses (and holding a fierce duel with Gaspard on the Victoria Williams song “Crazy Mary”) and Vedder rambling around the stage, occasionally stopping for a little wine and a cigarette. Vedder dedicated “Do the Evolution” to comedian George Carlin, who passed away Sunday, and the antiwar singalong “No More” to a seriously wounded Iraq veteran, making his cries of “I’m still alive” on the encore “Alive” that much more potent. (Of course, playing it immediately after the Ramones cover, he might have simply been celebrating that CJ was still with us, after the tragic deaths of Joey, Johnny, and DeeDee.) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists open the show.

Wire you still here?



Wire was more referenced than listened to–typical of bands modified by adjectives such as “seminal” “cerebral” “hugely influential” (i.e. weird brainiac art punk)

Pink Flag

Chairs Missing


Not only due to their most excellent post-punk album covers, I love this band. So did the Minutemen, Minor Threat, R.E.M., the guy from Guided by Voices, Robt E. Smith of the Cure, Elastica, Blur, My Bloody Valentine, and Fischerspooner, amongst others.

anyway they are playing for free in nyc @ South Street Seaport on Friday, but no one apparently remembers them but me.

I’m gonna go, but I freely admit I haven’t actually listened to a Wire song for at least 5 years. til now!

anyone out there also recall these guys? south st seaport, here we come!

Lit Minds is cool! Literary Mixtapes – yeah.

The very excellent blog today is pimping Martha Pettit’s “My Awesome Literary Mix CD.”

and so am I!

Martha works at the San Fran indie bookstore The Booksmith. She created this list, as quoted in Lit Minds, because “I was inspired by the song Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush; [we] were discussing what a great song it is and I relayed the story of a friend who also loved the song but had no clue that it was a reference to Emile Bronte’s novel.”

So what Martha did was make a mixtape list of great songs and the books that inspired them or are referenced by/in them. Way cool.

I love it cuz I’ve always been fascinated by creative connections between different genres of art. A song, a movie, a painting, a book – what are the similarities and irreducible differences? A lot of artistic – hell, a lot of human – expression is based on riffing on previous human expression. That’s what culture IS. That’s why I named my blog Palimpsest – most of our culture is an accretion of layers of reference, whether we know it or not. And i LIKE to know it!

That’s my thing: That’s why I majored in Classics and art history – cuz I loved to tease out the references to the old in the new. It adds a little frisson of “A-ha!” when one realizes that the cult classic movie The Warriors is based on the plot of the ancient Greek historian Xenophon’s Anabasis.

As I recall, my college entrance essay was on Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and its roots in and references to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Doors’ The End. I’m damn glad I don’t still have that essay, but I would add the Doors (even tho’ I hate them!) and Heart of Darkness to this list!

Here is Martha Pettit’s full playlist for your listening and reading pleasure:


by Martha Pettit, The Booksmith

1.”Killing an Arab” –The Cure (The Stranger by Albert Camus)

2. “Tear in Your Hand”-Tori Amos (Sandman series by Neil Gaiman)

3.”Wuthering Heights”-Kate Bush (Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte)

4.”Ghost of Tom Joad”-Bruce Springsteen (Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck)

5.”Paranoid Android”-Radiohead (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)

6.”Mr.Tambourine Man”-Bob Dylan (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson)*

7.”Satellite of Love”-Lou Reed (Ghostwritten by David Mitchell)*

8.”The River”-P.J. Harvey (The River by Flannery O’Connor)

9.”Myla Goldberg”-The Decemberists (Bee Season by Myla Goldberg)

10.”Ground Beneath Her Feet”-U2 (Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie)

11.”Norwegian Wood”-The Beatles (Norwegian Wood by Hakuri Murakami)*

12.”Disorder”-Joy Division (Crash by J.G. Ballard)

13.”Girlfriend in a Coma”-The Smiths (Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland)*

14.”La Pastie de la Bourgeoisie”-Belle & Sebastian (Catcher in the Rye by J.G. Salinger)

15.”Holland 1945″-Neutral Milk Hotel (Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank)

16.”Alice”-Tom Waits (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll)

17.”Little Green”-Joni Mitchell (Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore)*

18.”My Vien Ilin”-Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (The Odyssey by Homer)

Wants and Needs – art in the age of The Secret

My new favorite art site: Wants for Sale

Two nyc artists, Christine and Justin, started painting pictures of things they wanted. Visualizing, them, as it were, on canvas. Then they started selling those paintings for the exact price of that item. And voila, the item manifests.

They painted an iPhone; they sold a painting of an iPhone for $432. They got an iPhone.\

They wanted a slice of pizza; they sold a painting of a slice of pizza for about $3.00. They wanted the rent, a check for $1,056.07; they sold a painting of a rent check, and got exactly $1,056.07 for it.

They assign an arbitrary value to a painting = to what the image depicts. Each painting is about the same size, same style – what makes one worth $12.70 (buffalo wings) and another $1,000+?

The image = the reality. The Secret in action? Or the postmodern art market.

If I’m a collector, is the rent check painting worth more than the pizza painting? Not necessarily; the pizza is the earlier work, after all.

What value do we project on things? What web of interdependent wants and needs throws up this projection on a blank canvas, as it were?

Christine and Justin got the rent, after all. What’s real? What’s value? Do we make ALL this money stuff up?

And the subject of their painting is the actual object that they want. Can’t help but remind me of Ovid’s retalling of the original Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who scultped a woman so beautiful he fell in love with her; upon fervent prayes to the gods, she came to life and stepped into his arms.

So Christine and Justin’s iPhone materialized out of the canvas and stepped into their pocket. Making pictures or art into reality has long been a pattern–or a want–stuck in the patterns of the human brain. Look at the caves of Lescaux! Want a bison? Paint one and you’ll get one.

I would buy the iPhone painting. But I maybe I’ll just put an image of the iPhone painting. On my iPhone.

Like Butthead, who wanted to put a tattoo of a butt. On his butt.

Now there’s some postmoderism for ya.

Husker Du? Bob Mould, Irving Plaza, New York City, March 13, 2008


Bob Mould played Irving Plaza last night. Oh. My. God.

Mould, along with Grant Hart, made up most of the hugely influential and revered post-punk band Husker Du, which slammed out of Minneapolis in the early 80s.

[The band was named for a Scandinavian “Concentration”-like memory board game briefly popular in the 70s. Said game is remembered mainly for its peculiar and opaque Euro-flavor TV ads. Think Mentos commercials.]

Husker Du means, “Do You Remember?”

Did I ever! Last night Fugazi Fan and I remembered a freezing snowy night in ’86 with Husker Du boiling up the mosh pit at Irving. And their final tour in ’87, at the Ritz. I remembered being tossed off the edge of the mosh pit like a piece of flotsam, my then-Olive-Oyl-like build no match for the crazed and beefy boys smashing around in the center.

Bob hadn’t played any Husker in a long time. Did HE Remember? He did come out on tour last year, and for the first time in probably a decade played a coupla Husker tunes and stuff from his second band, Sugar. And last night he did it again.

Stupendous. Opening with newer stuff, Mould built giant slabs of guitar brilliance, submerging the melodic lines beneath frenzied layers of speed and bass. His unmistakable vocals, mixing anger, hope, rue, passion, and white-hot energy, was too hoarse for the softer songs at the end. No matter.

“I Apologize” is still one of the most satisfying bitter no-apology breakup songs ever, and the band just screamed off the charts on the rest of the material. A huge “Celebrated Summer” led to the classic “Divide and Conquer”, its lyrics still resonant today:
“It’s not about my politics
Something happened way too quick
A bunch of men who played it sick
They divide, conquer

It’s all here before your eyes
Safety is a big disguise
That hides among the other lies
They divide, conquer. . .”

By the time they opened the second encore with “Chartered Trips” from Zen Arcade I was beyond bliss.

Thank goodness I was beyond the mosh pit, too. But not the memory. Screaming, speed, intensity, brilliance. Ahh.

Here’s the set list, thanks to
The Act We Act
A Good Idea
I Hate Alternative Rock
See a Little Light
Hoover Dam
I Am Vision, I Am Sound
Hanging Tree
Miniature Parade
Your Favorite Thing
Again and Again
Can’t Help You Anymore
I Apologize (Husker, from New Day Rising)
Celebrated Summer (Husker, from New Day Rising)
Divide and Conquer (Husker, from Flip Your Wig)

Moving Trucks
If I Can’t Change Your Mind

Chartered Trips (Husker, from Zen Arcade)
Makes No Sense at All (Husker, from Flip Your Wig)